Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Bite me

The WGGB blog has a poll on writer's block, as I write this 7 people have voted and none of them "believe in" writer's block. And I'm one of those 7.

(I'm apostrophising before the 's' because I'm interpreting it as the block of one writer, as opposed the block of many writers.)

Back in October in my Inspirations #4 blog I mentioned, in passing, that I'm a bit unsympathetic towards people who say they have writer's block. I should probably qualify that as being unsympathetic to people who become "helpless" in the face of "writers block" as if it's a disease. Partly because I come from a journalistic background which doesn't permit such luxuries and partly because misnomers annoy me.

I want to make it clear that I am aware of the apparency of writer's block and how upsetting it can be. The following is my opinion of what it really is and what you do about it. Feel free to disagree.

I was writing a fantasy novel and hit "writer's block", I got stuck, I just couldn't move forward even though I knew where the story was going. Now I didn't go "oh I've got writer's block, I can't write", it's not in my nature to be stopped by things.

Instead I analysed the situation to nail down exactly what the problem was. Eventually I realised that I couldn't write because I didn't know what to write - it wasn't that I couldn't write at all.

In my fantasy story the protagonist had arrived in a society that was utterly different to human society, and I hadn't worked it out. I had no idea how the characters in this society would behave, what their architecture looked like and so on. So I spent some time deciding on the important details of the culture and suddenly the words flowed again.

The next time it happened I knew what I was up against, and quickly solved it. It has happened more than once when writing screenplays since then: If I'm stuck then there is something missing from my understanding of the world I'm creating (doesn't have to be fantasy, it can occur in any writing).

The solution to not knowing what to write is: find out.

It might be research, it might be creating a society, it might be watching some TV for "inspiration" (I'm not a huge believer in inspiration either, though we do need original creativity obviously). Whatever it is, it is something to fill in the blank so that you can keep moving forwards.

It works for me, perhaps it could work for you if you have this problem. So next time you get stuck, work out what it is you don't know, find out, then move forwards. It's worth a try.

What's on the turntable? "Perfume Exotico" by Vangelis from CD3 "Bladerunner 25th Anniversary CD set"

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